President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf this week reacted sharply to Education Minister George Werner’s derogatory social media comments against Vice President Joseph Boakai.
Several weeks ago Minister Werner, who is a staunch supporter of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), commented on Mr. Boakai’s response to a question during the first presidential debate in August. He was asked, what were his accomplishments as Vice President for the past 12 years. In response, Mr. Boakai compared himself to a race car parked in a garage for an extended period.
Reacting to that comment on Facebook, Minister Werner, though a key member of this Unity Party administration, but is also a staunch member of the opposition CDC, took the Vice President to task for that comment. Werner asked on Facebook, “What a race car? No sensible person parks a race car that long. It was probably not roadworthy, or it was too old to maintain. Get the director of transport to send it to the General Services Agency (GSA) for retirement. Bad analogy!”
In another comment against the Vice President, Werner wrote: “How could you be trusted? You have turned Liberia into a prostitute that you had sex with when your penis [got] vexed, showing up when you need votes. We shall see.”
Minister Werner’s obnoxious (despicable, offensive) comments even went further to tell people that he is unworthy to serve as Minister of Education. Why? Because he once posted on Facebook that “Education is ‘tabata’ (a Kru word meaning nonsense), and asked, “[Is] that book that people will eat?” The Education Minister made the statement denying the importance of education in order to debunk people’s criticism of CDC presidential candidate George Weah as not having sufficient education to lead Liberia.
If indeed Liberia’s Education Minister believes that “Education is nonsense,” why did he accept the job?
In her rebuke to her Minister for writing so negatively about her Vice President, President Sirleaf told Mr. Werner that his posts on Facebook were “Unbecoming and inconsistent with his position as a Minister.” If he continued, she warned, he would lose his job.
Let us agree that Werner is an individual with a right to his own opinion and that he is free to make his own political comments. Does it in any way grant him the freedom to insult a sitting Vice President of the country?
The social media invectives used by George Werner on the Vice President make anyone wonder whether the President is serious in defending the country’s image and that of her Vice President.
Many people in this postwar society have no respect for leaders, yet the President keeps a Minister who has behaved like a street boy without any respect whatsoever for her chief lieutenant, the Vice President.
What precedent is the President setting when she retains a Minister who uses invectives against her own and the nation’s Vice President?
Does this not warrant the immediate dismissal of this discourteous and insulting Minister, who also has absolutely no respect and appreciation for his own job as Minister of Education? Remember his description of education as “tabata,” the Kru word for “nonsense.”
Is there any wonder, then, that Liberia’s educational system is in shambles? Yes, this is partly because the President has placed at the head of the nation’s education system a man who, by his own admission, believes that “education is nonsense.”
The President’s warning to Werner is even belated, because it has been several weeks since Werner began posting his grossly insulting comments against Liberia’s Vice President on Facebook.
If indeed the President were serious about warning her Education Minister, she would have even compelled him to extend an apology to Vice President Boakai.
The President must set a precedent that will serve as a guiding principle for all Liberians regardless of political differences.
She must, therefore, view the offensive words of her Minister as gross disrespect not only to the Vice President, but even to herself; and we believe she should compel Minister Werner to extend an open apology not only to the Vice President but to herself and to the Liberian people as well.